Kanwar Amarjit Singh
Now Lives: In a two-bedroom apartment in the Shoreditch area of London.
Claim to Fame: Singh is an outspoken human rights activist and upper-crust gallery owner who sees no distinction between the two. “I really believe we need art in this world with all the madness going on, from North Korea to white supremacy,” he said. It should also be noted that Singh was born into one of the bluest of blue-blood families in India (he is 15th in line to the former throne of Kapurthala, he says). “I know that I come from a privileged background and that the lottery of birth has been lucky for me,” he said.
Big Break: In January, he opened Amar Gallery to showcase “a broad model of wonderful art that has a message,” he said. It took him more than two years to find the right space in Central London. “My God, we can’t have every street corner filled with banks and multibillion-dollar coffee chains,” he said. But it’s his activist work on women’s rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues that have received the most attention. After The Times of India published an article in 2009 quoting Singh, who was then 20, as supporting gay rights, he endured such intense blowback that he fled the country. “I was receiving death threats for promoting equal rights, but it doesn’t even compare to the harassment faced by activists who don’t have the luxury to leave,” he said.
Latest Project: “Black Exodus: Act I — Materia Prima,” a solo show of black-and-gold works by the British-Liberian artist Lina Iris Viktor, is on view through Oct. 31 at Amar Gallery. The exhibition’s sociopolitical subtext has unexpectedly taken on new meaning in light of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. “It is a very powerful show given this age of attacks against African-Americans,” Singh said.
Next Thing: His exhibition featuring feminist pieces by Renee Cox and the Guerrilla Girls inspired by “the origin story of Adam and Eve from the female’s perspective,” opens in January of next year.
Soldier of Love: Singh’s deep pockets and gallery sales help fund a grass-roots network of activists in India. “I call it an army of love,” he said. “Only last week I got a message from an individual who received threats from their own parents for coming out as gay. It’s utter madness.”
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